Summer Research Working Towards More Effective Drugs for Treatment of Addiction

Posted on 8/4/2017 11:49:29 AM

Biochemistry major Olivia Kalimon studying mice in the summer research programYou might think playing with mice is not a fun way to spend a summer, but for Olivia Kalimon, it’s a step toward a career.

Kalimon, who will be a junior this fall, is doing research with mice to see the effects of injections of certain chemicals that could lead her toward useful information in the fight against methamphetamine dependence in humans.

“It’s kind of ground-breaking in a lot of ways,” said Kalimon, a biochemistry major from Crafton. “It combines biology, chemistry, and psychology.”

Kalimon is doing her project as part of the IUP Research Experience for Summer Scholars program, which gives research opportunities to undergraduate students in a variety of disciplines. This summer, Kalimon is one of 43 students participating in the program.

Each student is under the advisement of a faculty member in that field of study. Kalimon is under the guidance of Daniel Widzowski, Department of Biology.

“There isn’t a lot of research on this,” she said. “Dr. Widzowski thought this would be interesting and he told me about it. Then, I wanted to find out more about it.”

In her research, Kalimon injects mice with the 5-HTP, which boosts serotonin levels in the brain. After the injections, Kalimon places the mice in boxes and then uses a video recorder to capture their movements over a set period of time. She then watches the video and counts how many times each mouse twitches its head, which tells a lot about the effects of the injection.

She said she hopes the research will lead to insights into how the human brain functions when methamphetamines are used. That could lead to the manufacture of more effective drugs in the battle against addiction.

“We’re looking to find the combination of drugs that give good side effects and reduce the bad ones,” she said.

Kalimon gave a presentation of her research during the first RESS Pizza Presenter Series event on June 9. Having the opportunity to give a presentation is something that was an important factor in Kalimon’s decision to be a part of the RESS program.

“This program helps me a lot,” she said. “Not just in the research, but it gave me a chance to present, which you don’t get a lot of as an undergrad. This will be helpful for me to get my foot in the door for graduate school.”

Kalimon hopes to someday earn a doctoral degree in biochemistry and work in the medical research field.

She has enjoyed her research so far, but she admitted her friends and family gave her some strange looks when she told them she was spending her summer handling mice.

“But It’s actually not as bad as you might think,” she said.

The RESS wraps up its season on August 10, with the Poster Session in the Ohio Room of the Hadley Union Building. The event runs from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and is open to the public.

The keynote speaker will be Dianne Rothstein, an IUP alumna and vice president of Research at Prime Synthesis, Inc, outside Philadelphia. The title of her talk is “I Was a Kindergarten Dropout.”